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M5S wants EU to cut spending, starting with Commissioners’ salaries

The Five Stars Movement (M5S) will campaign for the EU elections on the ticket of cutting what it considers as ‘useless spending’ – not to say ‘foolish spendings’ – for the EU, and continue the battle at EU level after the May elections.

“In total, in 2019 taxpayers will spend up to €12.6 million to maintain the Commissioners’ College”, M5S MEP Ignazio Corrao said. He continued: “Europe that must be changed as soon as possible, grants absurd privileges to politicians”.

An important element of the political program of M5S thus was made public, with popiticians from this political force promising to keep the word given.

“Change is about to happen, and it will start from the cut of the European commissioners’ salaries”, hammered out the head of the M5S delegation to the European Parliament, Laura Agea.

Cut the Commissioners’ fat salaries

Despite the declarations and the intentions, marking a real change won’t be neither easy nor possible, if we are realistic. In order to change the way the salaries are fixed a major revamp of the EU legislation would be needed.

Salaries of the top EU civil servants are set by article 2 of the Council regulation determining the emoluments of EU high-level public office holders.

Since the power of legislative initiative is a prerogative of the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union should table a proposal to revise the legislation here mentioned and send it to both to the Council and the Parliament. Would the Commission decide in favour of a reduction of commissioners’ salaries? The answer appears to be ‘no’.

Moreover, we live in a competitive world, and in order to attract good professionals, capable of defending EU interests against highly skilled international interlocutors, peanuts would hardly do the trick.

Of course in theory it’s possible for EU leaders to take a decision in that sense and giving the Commission the mandate to re-write the current legislation. But is not possible to say whether, and eventually when, a deal might be struck.

The only think the Five Stars Movement can do is to exert pressure on the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, to raise the problem within the European Council.

In other words, M5S is making a promise they could hardly keep.

Stop giving money to parties and foundations

At the same time M5S wants to re-write rules for both political parties and foundations. Too much taxpayers’ money is being given to these organizations, according to Agea.

“For 2019 some €70 million have been allocated”, she criticized. “We talk about 50 million for political parties and 19.7 million for foundations”. In Agea’s opinion the European Parliament “should prevent” such spending, which is considered by the Five Stars as “the real scandal” of European politics.

The Italian way

Cutting the spending in politics is one of the traditional battles of M5S. In Italy the party has already acted in that sense, and is now extending the same diet to Europe.

Last June the Italian Parliament endorsed the proposal to reduce the amounts of lifetime checks granted to all former MPs. It has been calculated that this move could save nearly €40 million per year to the Italian treasury.

Furthermore, the Five Stars already claimed to having renounced €90.5 million of public party funding.

More than the financial effect, M5S seeks popular support. Abolishing the so-called ‘privileges of the caste’ has a strong appeal on many Italians. They approve this attitude and the changes already made, so the M5S is now playing the same card at EU level, ahead the next European elections.

Is it feasible?

Once again, the Movement is selling what they have not in store. All the provisions for funding of European political parties and European political foundations are part of a EU regulation. So, even with 40 MEPs the Five Stars will be not in the position of doing much.

For the regulation to be changed, the Commission needs to make a proposal, and the changed legislation should be voted both in the Parliament and by the member states. So, despite the announced intentions, we reserve ourselves the right to see more populism than anything else in such campaigning.

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